In west Aleppo near the front line, the Baron was hit by mortar bombs, including one that sprayed shrapnel across an upper floor. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki
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On the terrace of the Baron Hotel in Aleppo, the owner's widow, Roubina Tashjian, sorted through old photographs of its happier past in a more peaceful Syria. Founded by an Armenian family in 1911, the Baron played host to adventurers, writers, kings, aviators, Bedouin chiefs and presidents until war forced it to close five years ago.Tashjian sees the Baron as part of a Syria that values religious and ethnic diversity, openness to the outside world, culture and respect for the country's great antiquities.The Baron, in west Aleppo near the front line, was hit by mortar bombs, including one that sprayed shrapnel across an upper floor and another that crashed through the window of its "Oriental Room" onto delicate floor tiles but failed to explode.Assad has cast his state as a secular protector of Syria's minorities and cultural heritage against Sunni rebels backed by hostile foreign states whose ranks include many hard-liners.During the fighting, the hotel took in refugee families from east Aleppo.In the late afternoon heat, the hotel is cooled by a breeze that drifts in through broken windows on the ground floor and up the grand staircase.
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